Music Ed Monday – Count Basie Eighth Notes

This past week, I took my Senior Big Band to the Brandon Jazz Festival in Brandon, MB, Canada.  It’s a fantastic festival and I hope that you all go 🙂

In which case, we played Count Basie’s “Hayburner,” an arrangement of Chick Corea’s “Spain” and then a local tune called “Hobgoblin” by Moses Mayes (and arranged by my bass player, which is fabulous).  In our clinic, our adjudicator talked about where the eighth notes lay in the Basie big band – sometimes on the 2/3 (as in a triplet, or swung eighth) or sometimes on the 3/4 (as in a sixteenth note, so really laying it back).

I talked about this with my friend and former bandmate, Brad Grieve, who played in Gordon Foote’s* big band at McGill.  He gave me a teachable tidbit that changed my whole perception on how to play Basie:

 The Count Basie swing is this: When a there are a series of 8th notes, the swing is triplets (2/3, 1/3), however, when a figure is followed by a rest, or is tied, the last beat of 8th notes in the series are 16th note related (3/4, 1/4). Every time. How “laid-back” the band is is a myth. Everyone plays on the downbeats at the same time, its the difference in swing of the 8th notes that give the feeling of being laid back.

So, if you teach big band, I hope that you find this valuable! Here is “Corner Pocket,” one of my favourite Basie tunes!

Until then!


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